Superman has indeed returned.  I am not a comic book geek per se, but for some reason the man of steel has always been my superhero of choice. The first three Superman films were childhood favorites (Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, was a disappointment and box office bomb). I loved Superman I (1978) & II (1980) because of Terence Stamp, who played villain General Zod with a delightfully droll and snarky sarcasm (which Stamp later channeled as drag queen Bernadette in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert). Let’s all say a prayer of gratitude that Superman Returns did not reintroduce General Zod, as director Bryan Singer had insisted on Jude Law but removed the role entirely from the script after Law turned it down repeatedly. Phew!


The real highlight of the Superman franchise was Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor. Although he did not appear in Superman III (due to conflict with the producers), Hackman stole every scene he was in; he played Luthor with a spirit that all actors who have played villains in comic book adaptations since have failed miserably to emulate. That being said, I did enjoy Kevin Spacey’s Lex Luthor in Superman Returns.  My only issue is that his performance almost seemed restrained; I got the sense that perhaps he was asked to reel it in a little, suppressing a more maniacal and comical characterization.  Lex Luthor is a somewhat iconic and memorable role, and Hackman’s shoes are difficult to fill, but I can’t imagine any other contemporary actor who could have pulled it off as well as Spacey does.  


Brandon Routh, the tall and handsome new version of Superman with the Tom Cruise grin, does an admirable job. Only his perfectly coiffured curl while airborne was distracting. Kate Bosworth, on the other hand, would not have been my first, fifth, or even fifteenth choice as Lois Lane. Then again, Mischa Barton was also being considered, which would have been far more painful. An unknown actress would have been preferable, or at least one who has eaten a few more sandwiches in her day. I’m sure Bosworth’s procurement of this role was aided by the fact that she had just co-starred with Spacey in Beyond the Sea, as he has a strong professional relationship and history with Singer (he directed Spacey’s Oscar-winning performance in The Usual Suspects). But above and beyond her performance, I highly recommend Superman Returns. Go see it in the theatre, well worth the price of admission for the airplane scene alone.

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